Mystery History – Homeschool Idea?

By , October 31, 2007 12:31 pm

My daughter’s Montessori class (1st through 3rd grade) does a wonderful thing for Halloween that I thought might interest some homeschool families or teachers out there.

Instead of wearing Halloween costumes to school, or even simply using the day to celebrate fall, the children prepare an oral report about a famous historical person. They must read a book about (or by) that person, then gather facts about their chosen person, most importantly they are not allowed to tell anyone else (except the teacher of course) who they are.

Throughout the week before Halloween, the teacher briefly presents to the class each of the chosen historical figures so everyone is familiar with them.

On Halloween the children go to school dressed as their person. They each give a short presentation to the class about their person, ending their talk with the question: “Who am I?” At the end of each presentation, the class tries to guess who the student is.

I am so impressed with this idea. What a wonderful way to encourage excitement about reading, history and learning…all while dealing with the sometimes sticky issue of how to celebrate (or not celebrate) Halloween at school.

My daughter read Little House in the Big Woods and chose Laura Ingalls Wilder. We had a great bonnet in the dress-up box, but no dress. As a teenager, I used to make clothes, and I actually do own a sewing machine that I have used exactly once since I bought it about 8 years ago, so I decided to go for a Super Mom Award and make a dress!

We went to Walmart (our only local fabric source) to choose a pattern and an appropriate fabric. The pattern was simple. I chose a classic little girl dress and bought an extra yard of fabric to make it reach the ankle instead of the pattern-specified knee length. The fabric choice was a little tougher.

I was thinking “little girl in dainty flowered calico,” my 7 year-old was apparently thinking “trashy bar-maid in seedy saloon.” She kept holding up more and more impossible fabrics beginning with: “Oh look Mom!” (florescent rainbow motif) and ending with: “Would she have worn this one?” (hot pink sequins on purple sparkle background). We finally settled on something resembling more of a calico.

After many hours of work wrestling zippers and gathered sleeves, I was quite pleased with the final result. There are a few flaws that probably only I will ever see, and it might not be 100% historically accurate, but I am pretty proud of it I must say.

The presentations were amazing and the costumes were very cute, and quite clever. For example there was Neil Armstrong (tin foil boots), Abraham Lincoln (fake beard and hat of course) and Mother Teresa (very clever rendition of Mother Teresa’s classic “chura” headscarf made out of a white towel with blue ribbon sewn on!) … as well as a very realistic-looking 6 year-old Sandra Day O’Connor complete with gavel!

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12 Responses to “Mystery History – Homeschool Idea?”

  1. Tamara says:

    Wow! I am impressed. Good for you. Did you decide to start making more things now that was so EASY? I “made” my sons costume this year too but much more basic as I have no sewing skills – inly required cutting felt and safety pining it on.

  2. Mom Unplugged says:

    It wasn’t THAT easy! (I did say I wrestled with zippers and sleeves didn’t I?) I think I’ll give the old sewing machine a bit of a rest for a while, but I may try something else when I recover from this project. I am really not very “crafty.”

  3. homeschooljourney says:

    What a great idea! We’ve done similar things in the past. See:

    http://homeschooljourney.wordpress.com/2007/10/23/make-history-come-alive/#comments

    This year we are going to reinact a “Pioneer Christmas” with another homeschool family. Looks like your duaghter had fun! (I think you’d love homeschooling *grin* )

  4. Ragnar says:

    Oh man, I’m thinking of the 6 year old Sandra Day O’Connor, and I’m thinking “their’s a little girl who’s gonna kick some ass when she grows up.”

    You did a good job on the dress because when I saw the picture I thought Laura Ingles before I even read the post.

  5. Scribbit says:

    Is that a Holly Hobby picture or what?

  6. Heather says:

    What a great idea! I am going to have to try that. The kids can get their dad to try and figure it out. It will be lots of fun. Thanks

  7. Kate in NJ says:

    That is a great idea!

  8. amanda says:

    What a fun idea! She looks adorable. You did a great job on the outfit, I bet she will get a lot of wear out of it just for fun and dress-up.

    Your fabric shopping trip had me laughing, with the “Would she have worn this one?” Those fancy fabrics are so hard to resist!

    The other kids’ costumes sound so adorable. I imagine the kids had fun and learned a lot too.

  9. greenemother says:

    Brillant job on the dress, especially for not being a regular sewer and what a superb idea for a lesson. The sleeves look great as well. That to me is the hardest part and one that I seem to be avoiding lately. Thanks for commenting as well. I couldn’t imagine dealing with fire. I would take a flood anyday than fire. There’s some hope with water that you don’t have with fire. My thoughts have been with all the people of the S. California area.

  10. sweetisu says:

    I came here via nablopomo. :-)

    That’s a really good idea! I am very impressed. I might pitch that to the teachers here from now on! Not sure how they or other parents will react though…

    The dress is adorable.

  11. Жанна says:

    Замечательный пост! Есть предложение в день создания блога собрать ссылки в одно сообщение на всё самое интересное за все время существования блога. Потому что много полезного и ранее было, но многие с этим не знакомы.

  12. […] We didn’t get to this week’s Unplugged Project, thin, in time this week. Halloween / Mystery History costumes have taken precedence. We have an idea however, and will try to do it tomorrow after […]

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